TAMPA, Florida— Several VA hospitals across Florida are among the worst nationwide when it comes to appointment wait times for new patients. The ranking comes from some of the VA's own internal data obtained by 10 Investigates and our partners at USA Today.
The data is significant because it's the first time the VA has provided us specific information on how long veterans have been waiting for their appointments. The Veterans Health administration has been under fire since accusations first surfaced in Phoenix of patients dying while waiting for care.
The data involves new patients going in for their first time visit in the six month period between October 2013, and March 2014.
West Palm Beach was the only VA hospital in Florida meeting that 14 day target period for care with patients waiting about 12 days for an appointment.
At Tampa's James A Haley the wait was about a week longer, or 19 days on average, about three weeks.
At Bay Pines in St. Petersburg it was even worse. It took over a month, on average, 33 days.
Gainesville racked up the worst wait times in Florida, 9th worst nationwide, at 51 days.
The VA's target was set at 14 days to get patients in for an appointment, but 3 out of 4 patients had to wait longer than two weeks at Bay Pines and a little more than half at James A. Haley.
In response to all this the Tampa VA is initiating a system wide initiative to accelerate veterans care, especially in high demand specialty areas.
They're also setting up a call center to get in touch with veterans who might still be waiting for an appointment.
The call center is set to open Monday from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays and will also be accepting calls from 8 a.m. to Noon on Saturdays. At least three attempted calls will be made to each Veteran by staff members. Patients will be able to directly contact the special project coordinator Eddie Crawford and the call center staff to discuss their scheduling needs at 1-888-716-7787 or 813-903-3600 for local calls.